Title: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
Synopsis: Once, a hero arose to save the world. A young man with a mysterious heritage courageously challenged the darkness that strangled the land.
For a thousand years since, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal emperor known as the Lord Ruler. Every revolt has failed miserably.
Yet somehow, hope survives. Hope that dares to dream of ending the empire and even the Lord Ruler himself. A new kind of uprising is being planned, one built around the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind and the determination of an unlikely heroine, a street urchin who must learn to master Allomancy, the power of a Mistborn.
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I think it’s important to tell you that it took me four months to finish this book. I started in September, and I finally finished it in January. Would the rating have been higher if it hadn’t taken me so long to complete this? Maybe. Would I have understood the hype a bit more had I finished this in an appropriate amount of time? Maybe. But as it is now, the rating is what it is, and I don’t really understand the hype.
One thing is certain: this was not, in any way, a bad book. It’s just that I have read much better, in terms of political strategizing, or in terms of fantasy, or in terms of writing. But I can definitely appreciate this book for what it is: wickedly imaginative, complex, unpredictable and exciting. But there are some things that brought the entire experience down for me.
“Men are more resilient than that, I think. Our belief is often strongest when it should be weakest. That is the nature of hope.”
The plot was the strongest aspect of the novel. It was enticing, fast-paced and gripping. Sanderson’s imagination is commendable: it seems as if he came up with a complex, unique magic system and then revolved the rest of the plot and the world around it. Because of this, the book felt cohesive and everything fit together like puzzle pieces. His vision, and his commitment to his story was admirable. Sanderson did things to his characters that took me by surprise, and several times, I wondered if he killed off certain characters just for the sake of the ‘shock value.’ But no – everything was planned. Even the smallest details mattered in this novel, which made reading it an enjoyable experience.
The pacing was also wonderful. There was a ton of action in this book, what with the bad-ass metal fighting, the political strategizing, the sporadic rebellion scenes. But all these were perfectly balanced with the right amount of tension between the characters, the right amount of lull in between the faster scenes. Another thing I really enjoyed about the novel was the trope of putting a ‘street urchin’ in a noble woman’s surroundings. It was fun to see Vin try to navigate through the unfamiliar and interact with the people she had been programmed to hate.
However, there was a drawback to the complex magic system; since the world and characters depended so much on the superpowers brought on by the magic, the action scenes were drawn out. Sanderson had to tell us what metal the character was burning at every step, and not only did this lengthen the scene, it made it uninteresting. I found myself skipping a lot of the action scenes, just reading the main sentences to get the gist of what was happening.
The characters in this book had great potential. They were interesting, they had intriguing back stories and they made me think. But they were not well-developed. Kelsier is such an interesting co-protagonist: a thief lord who is the only survivor from the Final Empire’s Pits. He was bad-ass, he was charismatic, he was genius. But I don’t feel like I know him. His personality was vague. He was confusing and unpredictable, and not in the good way. One second, I thought he would do one thing because of his behavior, and then the next second, I would have no clue.
Vin had a similar problem. She was also a character with a ton of potential – a poor, beaten girl taken from the streets and shoved into places where she clearly didn’t belong. I expected a state of emotional turmoil, scenes where Vin is trying to come to terms with the changes around her – but I didn’t get that. She integrated suspiciously well into the new surroundings, and a lot of the aspects of her personality changed in doing so. I don’t have a strong feel for the characters – I don’t know them. And that bothers me.
The Lord Ruler was intriguing. But for the most part, he was unreachable as a character. There were only five or six pages where he was involved as a physical presence, and I thought that was a waste of such a brilliant antagonist. Elend Venture was probably the only character I was fully satisfied with.
The writing style was the one thing that bothered me most about this novel. It’s not that Sanderson can’t write – absolutely not. I’ve already established that Sanderson is incredibly smart and imaginative; he can build worlds like nobody’s business. But when he’s writing about those worlds and these storylines and these characters, it falls flat. Why? Because his writing seems so impersonal. And I know writing styles are criticized based solely on personal preference, but I felt no depth to his writing. It was like he was narrating without injecting any emotion to the narration. The dialogue fell flat for me; it was stiff, almost robotic. The relationships felt tense. His writing didn’t flow.
It’s true that fantasy is hard to read because authors tend to detail and embellish so much, and Brandon Sanderson does not write like that. His fantasy is easy to read, because he talks about the stuff that’s important. But detail and embellishment makes the author seem personally involved in the book and story, and I didn’t feel like Sanderson was fully involved in this. Which is such a shame.